Changes to Twitter Policy – July 2023
In early July, Twitter announced a series of policy changes that affect platform use. They have different implications for Twitter Blue Users (paid accounts), existing unverified users (free accounts), and newly created unverified users (free accounts created after July 1).
A key change is to limit the number of tweets a user can view per day. As of July 11, these are:
- 10,000 tweets for users with verified accounts;
- 1,000 tweets for users with unverified accounts; and
- 500 tweets for users with new, unverified accounts.
For users with a free account, this means they can only spend a minute or two on Twitter before encountering a “rate limit exceeded” error. It is worth noting that the initial limits announced by Twitter were more restrictive, sparking a public backlash that caused the company to increase the new rate limits.
Another important change is to require users to have a paid account to access TweetDeck. TweetDeck is an embedded tool that enables users to organize and efficiently monitor the accounts they follow. It is valuable for monitoring multiple stakeholders (such as elected officials) simultaneously. As of August 1, only Twitter Blue subscribers will have access to the tool.
Lastly, users will now be required to log in to view any post or profile on Twitter. In other words, those without an account will no longer be able to view content on the platform.
Twitter Blue is a paid verification subscription that provides access to certain features. Those who opt-in have a blue checkmark added to their account. These users benefit from:
- Ability to edit tweets after they are posted;
- 50% fewer ads;
- Ability to make tweets up to 25,000 characters long;
- Ability to format text (bold, italicize, etc);
- Exclusive access to TweetDeck (after Aug 1);
- Ability to share longer videos/clips (up to 2 hours long); and
- Two-factor authentication.
The cost for verification is:
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The varying subscription prices — depending on whether users subscribe via iOS, Android, or the web — can be attributed to the taxes imposed on in-app purchases by Apple and Google. However, there are no differences in the services provided.
Launch of Threads
On July 6 — shortly after Twitter’s policy changes came into effect – Meta (the parent company for Facebook and Instagram) launched Threads. The platform is a direct competitor to Twitter, offering a similar user experience and town square approach. Twitter has threatened legal action. This may be posturing but, then again, it may not.
Meta tied Threads’ registration to its existing social media platform, allowing anyone with an Instagram account to join Threads easily. Threads is the fasting growing app ever, gaining 100 million users within five days of launch. (Twitter says it has about 330 million users.)
Threads mirrors Twitter in many ways, allowing users to create 500-character posts, to which other users can reply, repost or quote. But Meta executives add, pointedly, that Threads will be “sanely run” with an atmosphere intended to promote friendliness and civility.
There may be complications in Canada, though. Meta has previously said it will suspend access to Canadian news on Facebook and Instagram in response to the federal government’s passage of Bill C-18. It is unclear if Meta has similar plans to restrict Canadian news on Threads.
Advertising is currently not offered on Threads, but this may change
Instagram’s branded content tools aren’t available on Threads. However, Axios has reported that Instagram is working to adjust this, giving marketers the opportunity to begin experimenting with paid promotion while advertising remains unavailable. A Meta source has stated that Threads will not introduce ads until its user base reaches a critical mass.
Privacy and Data Security of Threads
The extensive data scraping capabilities of Threads has raised concerns regarding data privacy and security. Notably, Threads has yet to launch in the European Union, as it does not comply with the requirements of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Given such circumstances and characteristics, your organization might carefully consider benefits and risks before creating a Thread account or accounts.
Other Competing Platforms
- Bluesky: Bluesky was founded in 2021 by Twitter’s former co-creator and CEO Jack Dorsey. The site now operates on an invitation-only format, with 50,000 users, and allows them to post content up to 300 characters. The platform is now in beta form and has yet to launch widely. Bluesky’s website promises only that it will launch “soon.”
- Spill: Defined as a “visual conversation at the speed of culture,” Spill was founded by Alphonzo “Phonz” Terrell and DeVaris Brown and launched last January. Terrell and Brown are former Twitter employees; Terrell was Twitter’s global head of social and editorial. Like Bluesky, Spill is in its beta form, with over 100,000 registered users as of this month.
- Mastodon: Mastodon launched in 2016 and rose to popularity in 2022. It’s defined as a “social networking [platform] that’s not for sale” and was created by German programmer Eugen Rochko. Mastodon, unlike Twitter, is decentralized and operated by many independent servers. Users join servers depending on topic. The platform has 10 million registered users, making it the second most popular competitor to Twitter, behind Threads. Mastodon forbids advertising and sustains itself entirely through the social media platform Patreon – a matter of obvious importance to organizations seeking to build brand awareness through advertising.
Given the multitude of platforms available and emerging, and in the context of Twitter’s changes, your organization might carefully assess Twitter usage and consider diversifying your social media presence.
One crucial consideration in this regard is declining engagement on Twitter. As of last March, there had been a 7.3% decline in overall engagement on Twitter, with three consecutive months of decreased usage. Factors contributing to this trend include the previously mentioned policy changes and ongoing instability and controversy regarding Twitter owner Elon Musk. Twitter appointed this month a new CEO, Linda Yaccarino, to boost the organization. Engagement numbers on Twitter and competitors are worthy of close monitoring to assess the viability and effectiveness of platforms for your needs.
Another important Twitter consideration relates to the Twitter Blue subscription. For example, you might be attracted by the prospect of longer-form video content. However, potential benefits should be weighed against potential risks to your own brand related to the public perception of Twitter.
This is a sector that is in rapid and sustained flux. Twitter still offers many benefits for businesses and organizations even if its brand is under attack from the outside (and some would say inside). The viability of Threads shows promise but remains uncertain. Other Twitter competitors are poised on the horizon.
McMillan Vantage will continue to monitor trends and events closely and provide further analysis as appropriate.